The problem of heart failure is growing across Canada, warns Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, and efforts must be made to combat it on all fronts.
According to the foundation’s 2022 spotlight on heart failure report, 750,000 people are living with heart failure – a chronic incurable condition caused by the heart functioning improperly or structural problems – and 100,000 people are diagnosed with the condition annually.
“It can happen if the heart is too weak or too stiff, or both,” said a press release from the foundation. “This often results in fatigue and shortness of breath, and those living with the condition often experience depression and anxiety and reduced quality of life.”
Anything that damages the heart can cause heart failure, said the press release, and it is anticipated more instances will occur because of the country’s aging population and better detection and increased risk factors for younger people. COVID-19 can also lead to heart failure, as it can damage the organ. The pandemic has also “disrupted” the health-care system, as people with heart damage might not be able to access care due to hospitals being occupied by people with COVID-19, the press release stated.
A poll by the foundation found that heart failure affects one in three Canadians, with people either afflicted by the condition or knowing someone affected by it, stated the press release, and even though there has been progress, there are “significant gaps … in diagnosis, treatment and support.”
Being diagnosed early, changes to lifestyle and access to pacemakers, artificial heart valves and pumps and other supports can help people, said the press release. Ethnicity, income, location and gender can impact the treatment and support people with heart failure receive, the foundation added.
“There has been some progress to improve outcomes and quality of life for people living with heart failure, informed by important research, but much more could and should be done, especially as heart failure numbers continue to grow,” said Dr. Patrice Lindsay, health systems director for Heart and Stroke, in the press release.
Integrated systems of care, access to specialized care, evidence-based care driven research and support for those living with heart failure are among the approaches emphasized by the plan, according to the press release. Other areas that will improve quality of life include improved access to medications via a national and universal pharmacare program, the foundation said.
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